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In July, Chuck wrote about the looming end to incandescent bulbs 40 Watts and higher. Unfortunately Congress has yet to act to repeal any of these bans. However, many debates remain on whether the newer CFL or LED bulbs will really offer a savings over time in relation to incandescent bulbs. With 2012 and the first phase-in of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act inching closer, some entrepreneurs have decided to play the futures game and stock up on the soon-to-be-banned bulbs.

Some incandescent hoarders really just prefer the quality of light that electric light bulbs emit, though many others hope to make a buck on eBay or Craigslist once the ban against incandescents is in full effect. I wish all of them well. However, I sincerely hope that someone looks at this as a good ole’ American ingenuity opportunity and presents us with an inexpensive and viable lighting product.

News about incandescent light bulb hoarding has been gearing up all year. USA Today, The Boston Globe, and MSNBC among many others have run stories this year about incandescent hoarding. As with any supply-and-demand situation, the incandescent black market will see winners and losers in the coming months and years — and I can only applaud those with the foresight to stock up for their own requirements, real or imagined. But I suspect the majority of us will simply vote with our wallets and choose the cheapest option that fits our needs. I could go on about the pros and cons of incandescent bulbs, CFLs and LEDs, but suffice it to say, none of these options is agreeable to all parties at this point.

I’m sure there will be some who’ll do what Toolmonger Sean described in Tool Talk #65 for his latest truck purchase — actually create a spreadsheet with requirements, pros and cons, and come up with the best option for them personally. I’m also certain that over time this ban will create an innovative opportunity for someone to market a revolutionary, cost-effective solution that many will agree upon. Hopefully someone in a garage somewhere is sketching out a design that’ll take the lighting market by storm. I’m hoping that this individual will be able to construct a miracle solution and that America will response to this issue like it has to so many others — through innovation. It’s just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Here’s hoping America has it in itself to overcome yet another issue, however minor, that faces our nation. I, for one, would appreciate being able to light my home without taking a bite into that new tool allowance.


49 Responses to Incandescent Bulb Hoarders and Upcoming Opportunities

  1. Pruitt says:

    A recent Popular Mechanics article did a good job on the pros and cons. However, I really wish their article had considered the electric vs. mechanical dimmer issue addressed here a few weeks ago.

  2. Pruitt says:

    Oops–I meant electric vs. mechanical TIMERS and the short CFL bulb life reported by guys whose electrical timers were leakin a small ammount of current.

  3. Dave O'H says:

    My big problem with CFLs is the noise they make. They all produce something, some more than others, even in the same brand/model. They whine, ring, squeal, buzz, and it drives me mad, MAD I Tell you.

    Er, sorry.

    When LEDs get reasonably priced….

    • KoKo the Talking Ape says:

      I use nothing but CFL’s in my home, and have for years. None of them create any noise whatsoever. I have bought many different brands, but most come from Home Depot.

  4. Kris says:

    One thing to consider with CFLs is any subsidy from local government or utilities. My local home center has highly subsidized bulbs available for ~ 20% of their true cost.

  5. John says:

    There’s another alternative to LEDs and CFLs that most people don’t know about. There’s a company Vu1 that has a new technology called “ESL” which is the equivalent of a mercury free fluorescent light that has a remarkable color range very close to that of an incandescent. They released a small run of R30 recessed lights and just got UL approval for their A19 bulb (typical household bulb). For anyone who hates CFLs and LEDs, this seems like it has the potential to be a great replacement to incandescents.

    • Chris says:

      I’ve honestly never heard of the Vu1.. but after seeing some videos on YouTube of brightness, I’m impressed. It’s definitely something we should be looking at.

  6. GrowUp says:

    Sorry, but I’m happy taking away people’s ‘right’ to waste energy as we are at war over oil.

    “Contrary to what you might have heard, you can still buy most incandescent lightbulbs. But we’ve found few reasons you should. Our tests of 26 compact fluorescents and 10 light-emitting diodes found that though the newest bulbs might not be perfect, they last longer and use less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, and many of the problems of earlier versions have been overcome.


    • SuperJdynamite says:

      “Sorry, but I’m happy taking away people’s ‘right’ to waste energy as we are at war over oil.”

      There aren’t many light bulbs powered by foreign oil.

      • Mike Y says:

        Agreed – mostly by coal, or natural gas. Some, oil, I’m sure.

        However: by BANNING the incandescent light bulbs, it forestalls one of our INDIVIDUAL choices.

        Perhaps an INDIVIDUAL would wish to ditch their electric dryer and dry clothes on a line. Or raise their AC setting another 2 degrees.

        But instead, the Congress has made a COLLECTIVE decision for us ALL – actually, made at the behest of the manufacturer(s), who’ll make much, more on the manufacture of a product at $3 or $5 per unit, which used to sold at maybe 30 cents each.

        Mike Y
        Dallas, Texas

        • Chris says:

          I think that kind of attitude is immature. The whole incandescent hoarding.

          “Oh I’m going to show them by using twice as much electricity!”

          It’s called progress. These people are too small minded to understand the concept of conservation.

  7. rob says:

    as a sparky here in the great white north
    we also have similar issuses facing us
    with all but 60W and less currently band and soon to be all but specialty bulbs

    it has how ever made tones of cash for the lighting wholesalers as big goverment jobs and other environmentally friendly general contractors are opting for cfl fixtures with PL style bulbs rather than a standard fixture with a cfl bulb
    pot lights are particularity bad with dual 26w watt PL bulbs they aren’t saving much power wise but they haven’t cut down the number of fixtures either because they are pot lights and light such a limited area

  8. Alf says:

    Hey GrowUp, you’re happy making decisions for me? I’d be happy making decisions for you, but I’m not so presumptuous as to think that is right.

    If people like you were as smart as you think you are, we would not be importing much oil from Saudi Arabia or the region. The planet’s energy resources are vast beyond your comprehension, and supply is crippled by people with your statist mindset, who destroy freedom to explore for it the world over.

    Please tell me you’re not also protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.

  9. Brau says:

    This is not the kind of content I tune into Toolmonger for.

  10. ctrlz says:

    I am experimenting with these bulbs for several years now – although they burn less often than regular ones and indeed use less electricity – they still do not last THAT LONG. Cost differences is so huge that now I spend on bulbs more than I saved on electricity.
    Also – why nobody talks that CFL bulbs are outright poisonous compared to old (so called bad) light bulbs ? Electronics in these bulbs contain lead, gas in them contains MERCURY. In fact – you have to implement proper disposal procedure for these lamps and every time you break such bulb at home – otherwise everybody in home will receive a good dose of mercury and you have to vent home for several hours. Do not trust me ? Read http://www.energystar.gov. But read carefully with a proper attention to details, small scripts and references.

    However green sheeps are so brainwashed that they do not care to take calculator in their hands tp verify facts. They just keep mummbling – ecology GOOOOD, bulbs BAAAAAD… And paying $50 for EcoSmart bulbs…

    I just get excited how skillfully and easily Phoebus cartel people forced people to spend money on their products. And evern more – they even managed people feel guilty for not using their product. Some people even voluntarily police othermore people for “not being green”.

    • BigDave says:

      I don’t know what to say to you except, You’re buying the wrong CFLs. My whole house, inside and out, has been equipped with CFLs almost since they came out. In that time, I have only replaced TWO bulbs; one, because I used it incorrectly, and the other just failed … just as some incandescents do. I really feel badly for people who bought junk bulbs that suck. Maybe it’s because I buy brand names; Phillips, GE, etc., but I am happy as a clam with CFLs. Both the wattage minder I plugged in to test them, and my electric bill confirm the significant savings.
      Personally, I do not mind the color spectrum they put out. Maybe some people are really sensitive to this. I sincerely hope someone does come up with ONE bulb upon which we can all agree. Because, seriously, do we need more division in this country because of a LIGHT BULB??!!

    • Chris says:

      Yeah, there’s mercury in CFLs. A minuscule amount, much less than the mercury that would be emitted by a coal-fired power plant generating the extra electricity required to run a conventional incandescent.

      Non-issue. Next?


      • KoKo the Talking Ape says:

        Mercury in the bulbs isn’t a NON-issue, just a very small one. There are people who are alllergic to mercury who have to be careful, and if I had children in the house and broke a bulb, I would air out the room and sweep the glass into a ziplock and either toss or send to a waste disposal place, like they say to do. But otherwise, there is little to worry about.

    • Blake Girardot says:

      Burning the extra coal to power highly inefficient bulbs produces a fair amount of toxins, mercury chief among them.

  11. Joe says:

    So… I don’t quite get everyone complaining about CFL and LED bulbs. then again.. I don’t have any dimmers in the house, so lights are either ON or OFF, but I have switched everything in my house over to CFL bulbs except the oven (duh) and the garage door opener (they don’t fit).
    I don’t notice a hum from them, and the majority of them turn on quickly (the cheapest ones… go figure), I found that the flood light bulbs take a little longer to come up to full brightness, but they still work. maybe I am just getting lucky, but I never pay all that much for them, never more than $1 for a normal bulb, and I found a KILLER sale on the PAR38 outdoor flood lights for ~$1.50 each, which was less than the incandescent bulbs right next to them.

    I switched over on my own, not to be a hippie (and that’s NOT meant to be derogatory), but because I didn’t like my first power bill after moving off campus. I have had a grand total of probably 5 bulbs die on me in the 5 years since I switched.

    • David says:

      This has little to do with the quality of light or any perceived hum for some people this is nearly religious.

      If they agree with the environmentalists on one thing they might agree on another and in their mind if the central point of environmental protection is true then the industrial revolution will be rescinded and America will be over. the founding fathers will return and weigh them all against how many mountaintops it took to light their house and if it wasn’t several they will get cast into Canada. ok, that was a joke but it’s seriously emotional, these people are scared for whatever reason. they are also too young to remember when large cities were covered in soot and too old to change.

  12. David says:

    It is unfortunate that so many people are stuck on CFL and LED options. My family has addressed this without needing to change much of anything. We place large boxes outside during the day and collect light. In the evenings, we bring them in and let the light out. At first we didn’t think it was working, but when we turned on a lamp to check the boxes, we clearly had light. We still check each night to make sure it is working properly, and we have enough light to read, work, or play by. Try it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well it works.

  13. Chris says:

    Jesus H. Christ. For the bazillionth time, turn off Faux News and open your damn eyes. Incandescent bulbs aren’t going away; they’re just being forced to become more efficient. Every reputable media outlet has covered this to exhaustion already, so I’m not going to repeat links here, except one:


    I’d start by asking “Are incandescent light bulbs really going away?”


    • zoomzoomjeff says:

      1) Calm down a little. Actually, calm down quite a bit.
      2) Lose the extreme vulgarity. It’s offensive.
      3) I wasn’t aware FOX news was responsible for such propaganda as you see it. In your logic, all of us here, including the author, must be Fox loyalists and tea party people, if I understand your flawed logic correctly. Nice website, BTW. It explains EVERYTHING about your post.

  14. Jupe Blue says:

    I’m an electrician by trade… here’s what I tell my customers:

    “If you want to cut your energy costs, turn off the lights when not in use.”

    The same message my dad gave me during the ’70s energy crisis.

    • KoKo the Talking Ape says:

      Sure, but these bulbs weren’t available in the 70’s. Why not turn off the lights when not in use AND save money and electricity when they ARE in use?

      Dimmable CFLs are expensive, but work fine. Anyway, I tell people if they want a dim room, turn off some lights!

  15. Eddie Hagler says:

    @ Jupe Blue… lights? really? I researched this recently. A 60 Watt Bulb costs about 1 penny per hour or less…. That is not where high energy bills come from. Try shutting off that Plasma TV. It costs 10 times as much. That Electic oven or Toaster oven will use up way more electricity than that silly 60 watter. I wont’ even discuss that old A/C outside.

    It’s kinda like worrying about the gas milage of your lawn mower but completely overlooking the mpgs of that SUV in the garage.

    Give me a break… shut off the lights.

    • KoKo the Talking Ape says:

      I think you also have to consider how many of those 60 watt light bulbs are on, and for how many hours. In an apartment building we own, the hall lights are on 24/7, and there are dozens of them. Replacing the incandescents with CFL’s saved us close to $1000 in the first month. In the second month they were all paid for.

      Sure, TVs do use a lot of electricity, but there isn’t a more efficient and relatively cheap alternative, like there is for incandescents.

  16. Tony says:

    Hey @Alf, if YOU’RE so smart then you already know this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Oil-fired_power_stations_in_the_United_States

    Oil, what oil?

    As @Chris say, what ban? Sheep indeed, only you’re happy being led by Fox.

    Incandescents suck anyway. (CFL, 6 years, zero failures.)

  17. Nick says:

    For all those worried about the ban on the incandescent lights. There are loopholes as there is in any law. If you want a high wattage incandescent bulb the rough service bulbs will still be available, as they are not to be regulated by the 2007 energy law.

  18. Eddie Hagler says:

    I have been listening to a podcast called the Amp Hour. It is produced by electronic geeks. One Aussie, one American. They occasionaly talk about LED and CFL and incandescent bulbs. They are in favor of LED lights taking over the market.

    In reality… CFL’s are not dependable enough and are prohibitably expensive. They are not going to be around long because the view is that LED’s will take over.

    The truth about LED lights is that they are not efficient enough. They are susceptible to degredation due to conditons. In short they don’t last long enough to justify using them.

    The LED lights have a problem with the heat they generate (the circutry, not the led itself) shortening the life of the unit itself.


    LED’s are not the answer to more efficient lighting, neither is CFL technology.

  19. Jim K. says:

    Quick Ma! Get the Raid someone’s stirred the hornets nest!

    Snarky comments aside, for anyone holding fast to their incandescents I wish them good luck.

  20. Jim K. says:

    Sigh.. Hadn’t meant to post that before finishing my thought. Anyway, having been to one of the largest commercial lighting fairs recently there were nearly no incandescents to be found. I’m not saying the technology is perfect, but it’s coming.

  21. Jeff G. says:

    As stated above incandescent light bulbs are not being banned in the United States, the legislation simply requires bulbs (phased in over time) be 30% more efficient. That is a significant improvement and has nothing to do with “banning” anything.

    I live in China half the year. If you want to live in a country where no thought is given to environmental concerns I invite you to come over and stay a while. After you watch your kids gag on the fumes from the electrical plants and you see blue sky one day a week if you are lucky… your opinion on being energy efficient would change. I guarantee your opinion on a lot of things would change.

    This article was poorly thought out. It would have been far more relevant if you had used the subject to address our options for energy efficient shop lighting. Readers may feel fine not caring at all about the environment, but they certainly have to pay their electrical bill. I know lighting my shop dings me pretty good when I am out there full time. And I heat with electricity as well though I am not here as much in the winter. Combined the shop can hit me for an extra $150 a month in the peak cold months.

    People should stop and think. Polarizing comments that antagonize are at the heart of many of the problems in the U.S. Our leaders get away with it because we accept it, even emulate it. It’s time to grow up and be smarter.

  22. Eddie Hagler says:

    My point was that those “greener forms of lighting” may not be as green as you think. In fact they may be worse for the environment.

    CFL’s and LED’s result in e-waste. Which is harder to get rid of and worse for the environment than old fashioned light bulbs.

    • metis says:

      the e waste in cfl ballasts (and their mercury) has been repeatedly demonstrated to be less than the waste generated (including mercury released from fossil fuel savings) and released from using less efficient incandescent. they may be, but they as a whole are not.

  23. Dr Bob says:

    Judging from the PM article, it doesn’t appear that LED bulbs are getting good enough, fast enough. They certainly aren’t cheap enough either. Maybe in five years?

    I have about two dozen outside fixtures where CFLs just don’t produce enough light when it’s 0 to 30 below zero, two fixtures which use heat lamps, and several staircases where the CFLs are a safety hazard because they take so long to get bright enough, so I still need a supply of incandescent bulbs for a while.

    Supposedly, the new efficiency standards can be met with halogen incandescent bulbs, but I haven’t seen any that advertise they meet the new standards and have no idea how much more those would cost. Maybe the halogens will be the lifeline between what we have now and the LED technology, but I think a small supply of incandescent bulbs on hand would be prudent.

    For what it’s worth, I put a CFL bulb equivalent to a 100W incandescent in my trouble light after the 60W rough service bulb failed. Not only does it work fine, it’s fairly durable (it hasn’t quit yet after a couple of years of use), it’s much brighter and it doesn’t get hot, a good thing when working in tight quarters.

    • Chris says:

      “Judging from the PM article, it doesn’t appear that LED bulbs are getting good enough, fast enough. They certainly aren’t cheap enough either. Maybe in five years?”

      Well, I don’t read PM, so I haven’t seen that article, but Consumer Reports just published the results of their most recent comprehensive lightbulb test:


      Ratings graphic: http://static1.consumerreportscdn.org/cro/cdn-resources/images/magazine-archive/2011/october/home-garden/lightbulbs/ratings/lightbulbs_lg.jpg

      Notably, payback times on LEDs are all under 10 years compared to an incandescent, and the best payback times for CFLs are under three months. Modern CFLs and LEDs also reproduce the incandescent “look and feel” a lot better than they did 10 years ago. (There’s a lot more on the color rendering index, or CRI, of CFLs at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp )

      I generally agree that LEDs are still a bit pricey for most applications, at least for me. The local utility subsidizes the purchase of Home Depot’s EcoSmart house brand of CFLs such that we only pay about 50 cents per bulb for 60-watt equivalents. At that price — and those are great CFLs — it’s a no-brainer for now; LEDs simply don’t offer enough benefit in a short enough time period to be worthwhile for me yet.

      However, there are a number of applications where I’d be more inclined to use LEDs, despite the current cost: outdoor spotlights, because CFLs aren’t well-suited for it and incandescents really eat electricity; hard-to-reach fixtures, because LED bulbs allow you to replace the light once and not worry about it for a decade; specialty bulbs like candelabra bulbs, because CFL equivalents are, frankly, either ugly or nonexistent and incandescent bulb life and power draw are vastly inferior to LEDs.

      If I were outfitting a house that had *no* bulbs, or if I only had incandescent bulbs, I’d seriously consider making the investment in LEDs everywhere, but it isn’t really worth it to replace CFLs with LEDs if you already have good CFLs.


  24. metis says:

    this article may be the single worst thing i’ve read on toolmonger. i am disappointed by how poorly researched this article is, and how it spins efficiency legislation and does not reflect using the right tool for the job.

    general use lamps must be more efficient than the baseline established a few years back. sorta like hot water heaters, fridges and automobiles. nothing is banned. you can still get them, they’re just not the standard anymore.

    there are already incandescent lamps on the market that are that efficient, as well as cfls, compact cold cathode, and led lamps that have no ballast noise (really, none, scientific test instruments don’t hear it, so you don’t either, and no flicker that is possible for your physiology to detect) and are indistinguishable from incandescent for standard use purposes, and some for many special use purposes even.

    if you’re buying bargain basement cfls off the endcap, they’re gonna bite, but if you’re buying a factory 3rds pliers that was made in “chira”at the dollar store you don’t expect it to be an irwin lineman’s plier. you DO get what you pay for, and you need to be an educated tool user.

    leds are great where you need cold temp starts, or difficult to access to relamp, clfs where you don’t need focus, and halogen incandescent where you need high color accuracy or focus. get the right tool for the job, AND save money over time.

    • KoKo the Talking Ape says:

      I have to agree. Poorly researched, low quality article. In the opening paragraph: “In July, Chuck wrote about the looming end to incandescent bulbs 40 Watts and higher. Unfortunately Congress has yet to act to repeal any of these bans. However, many debates remain on whether the newer CFL or LED bulbs will really offer a savings over time in relation to incandescent bulbs…,” there are three false statements in three sentences.

      – There is no outright ban.

      – There is no debate about whether they save money. They absolutely do. They use about 1/4 of the electricity of incandescents for the same light output, and last about 10 times as long. If CFLs cost 10 times as much as incandescents (to be frank, I don’t know how much incandescents cost, having not bought one in at least ten years), CFLs would cost the same as incandescents in replacement costs alone. Further, CFL’s also produce about 1/4 the heat of incandescents, so they put less load on the air conditioning in summer.

      CFLs will not work for everybody in every situation, but then, nothing will. But for most indoor residential lighting, they basically have no downside.

  25. Dan says:

    With so few options available with CFL’s for dimmers, I will be stocking up on the old fashioned bulbs. I finally found some CFL 3-way bulbs at Fryes that actually fit inside the hoops on lamps we have.

    Still don’t have a good solution for our dimming ceiling fan lights either…

    So my issue isn’t with the debate between CFLs, etc, but just that there aren’t enough decent models out that handle 3-way and dimmers at this point. So I either have to not use the dimmers or get rid of them…

    So yeah.. Stocking up on enough bulbs to last us the 3 to 5 years we’ll be in this house.

  26. pww says:

    I bought several 4ft tube fixtures for my garage two years ago at Home Depot. Needing more, I returned a few months ago only to be told that this type of tube fixture has been phased out. I assume that the old tubes will be as well. Does anyone know if the new tubes will work in the old fixtures?

    • Chris says:

      They won’t, from what I’ve read. Had the same problem in my parents’ kitchen earlier this year — couldn’t buy replacement T12 U-tubes any more, so I had to replace the ballast with one that could drive T8 bulbs. On the plus side, they can now listen to AM radio when that light is on, but they can’t listen to FM radio any more :-p

      I think the replacement ballast was about $20 and it was a drop-in replacement, so I didn’t have to replace the whole fixture. If we’re just talking shop lights, though, you’re probably better off simply buying new fixtures, ’cause shop lights are always on sale somewhere. I’m gonna have the same problem in my basement when the lights down there go out and my plan is just to replace the fixtures when the time comes.


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